Review: ‘Hyperion Bay’

Dennis Sweeny returns to his hometown fancying himself as something of a prodigal entrepreneur, the misunderstood computer geek who the cute girls and macho guys ignored and abused during high school.

Dennis Sweeny returns to his hometown fancying himself as something of a prodigal entrepreneur, the misunderstood computer geek who the cute girls and macho guys ignored and abused during high school. His return, however, stirs up plenty of hostility in the Sweeny household and curiosity among those who sort of remember him, and “Hyperion Bay’s” pilot sets up every conflict, come-on and conspiracy he’s likely to endure in the coming season. Exasperatingly predictable at every turn, show is likely only to attract drama devotees who find “Ally McBeal” too pat or too tough to grasp.

Hyperion Bay is a coastal town located somewhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco, seemingly washed up economically, although it does appear to have one nice mansion-filled neighborhood. Dennis (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) starts his return home from San Francisco with a sexual rendezvous at the town’s abandoned drive-in with current flame Jennifer (Sydney Penny).

The ride back into town includes a chance encounter with former star cheerleader Trudy Tucker (Cassidy Rae) and her husband Nelson (Bart Johnson), the bully who beat Dennis throughout childhood. Clearly, she’s impressed. He’s thinking punching bag.

Once home, a less-than-open-arms greeting signals a whole lotta resentment goin’ on. Frank (Raymond J. Barry) is the patriarch, a developer and a firm believer in Friday being steak night. He is passed over by Dennis’ company for an important cannery renovation job, and his bitterness also starts to drive a wedge between his relationship with eldest son Nick (Dylan Neal).

Nick sees himself as Dennis’ protector. He envies Dennis’ ability to leave town and score big “typing on keys,” yet he’ll never admit as much. Nick and wife Amy (Christina Moore plays the third stunningly beautiful woman encountered in this alleged Nowheresville) are considering divorce, and baby brother has no say.

For anyone who can’t connect the dots, pilot gets explicit near the end of the hour, and Dennis is asked over and over why he returned. If that’s the driving force for the show, he’ll be headed back to San Francisco’s unemployment line soon. And despite the town’s plum location, many of the locals have apparently never seen a helicopter, a German automobile or a designer suit.

The script and direction of Joseph Dougherty, an Emmy winner for “thirtysomething,” plays angst, seduction and anger with similar heavy-handedness. There’s not a split-second of ambiguity to be found here, for the camera telegraphs every emotion and every forthcoming action.

Penny, as girlfriend Jennifer, has a little spark in her character, and her perf is the show’s one reward. Other-wise, we’re looking at cardboard cutouts and Gosselaar, Barry, Neal and Rae appear to be doing exactly what they’re told.

Needless use of slo-mo cuts into the passable tech quality.

Hyperion Bay

Family drama; WB; Mon., Sept. 21, 9 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Southern California by Jarndyce and Jarndyce Inc. in association with Warner Bros. Television. Executive producer, Joseph Dougherty; co-executive producer, Bernard Lechowick; producers, Lindsley Parsons III, Marlane Meyer; directors, Joseph Dougherty, Ellen S. Pressman; writer, Dougherty.

Cast

Dennis Sweeny - Mark-Paul Gosselaar Frank Sweeny - Raymond J. Barry Nick Sweeny - Dylan Neal Jennifer Worth - Sydney Penny Amy Sweeny - Christina Moore Nelson Tucker - Bart Johnson Marcus Fox - Chaka Forman Trudy Tucker - Cassidy Rae
Director of photography, Kenneth D. Zunder; production designer, Michael Mayer; music, Michael Tavera; editor, Lee Haxall; casting, Ted Hann. Running time: 1 HOUR.
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